Red Sox History: Carl Yastrzemski's defense somehow rivaled his stellar offense

San Francisco Giants v Boston Red Sox
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The memories of Carl Yastrzemski run so deep in Boston Red Sox country, and rightfully so. He took over left field for the great Ted Williams and had to carry the weight of immense pressure — and he did it with class and style.

Speaking of which, he almost single-handedly carried the 1967 Red Sox to a World Series title. He hit .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBI to secure the American League’s Triple Crown. It was Yaz’s second of three batting titles. In the end, finished his brilliant career with 452 home runs and 3,419 hits.

Everyone knows Yaz was an offensive savant. What is less known is how he played left field. Yastrzemski is — according to one very telling statistic — second only to Barry Bonds as the best defensive left fielder in baseball history.

Sabermetrics determines his placement at second all-time, specifically Total Zone Runs, or as they abbreviate it on their site, “rtot." Yastrzemski accumulated an rtot of 135 over his 23-year MLB career (Bonds finished with a 184 rtot). His average was around 5.9 above, but that includes years when he wasn’t playing full time and in 1974 when he played well below average (a -9 rtot), most likely due to a permanent shoulder injury he suffered a few years back.

Those who watched him play didn’t need any advanced stats to know what kind of a left fielder he was. Many fans will point out that in the third game of the 1967 season, he made an incredible catch to preserve a no-hitter in the ninth. Although the no-hitter was lost one out later, many point to that catch as one of the greatest in the magical “Impossible Dream” season. He even made tremendous plays when they counted the most. In the 1975 World Series, he robbed Dave Concepcion of a base hit in Game 1 against the Cincinnati Reds.

The announcers made references to how he played the field at Fenway. He played shallow and ensured he had control over the Green Monster — not the other way around. That way, he could throw out runners thinking they had an easy double. Yastrzemski had 177 assists in left, an amazing amount in any era.

Most fans remembered Yaz when he was older, slower, and playing mostly first base. Many did not get the pleasure of watching him patrol Fenway’s left field like a sentry guarding a castle. You could still, however, see the athleticism even when he played into his 40s. We remember the tape he used to put on his wrists to help with the pain of swinging the bat.

Yaz will always be a Boston Red Sox icon. There have been many icons who have done their damage at the plate, but not so much in the field (I’m looking at you Mickey Mantle!). It doesn’t take away their greatness, but if you can factor prowess at the plate, along with fielding your position in an elite class like Yaz did, you can truly say that you had all the tools to be a Hall of Famer.